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October 29, 2012

Jordan addresses players at practice

    Charlotte Bobcats owner Michael Jordan addressed the players at the end of practice Monday. Team co-captain Gerald Henderson and coach Mike Dunlap both said Jordan ‘s primary message was stick together: That the only way to fix a team that went 7-59 last season is for the players, coaches, front office and owner to stay on the same page.

                Henderson’s take on Jordan’s speech: “Mike is a competitive guy. His biggest thing is he’s in this thing with us. We lost 59 games last year and he feels just as much a part of that as us. From top-to-bottom, everyone cares about what’s going on.  He’s going to do the best he can from his position to help us win. We’re all together in this thing.’’

    Dunlap’s take on Jordan’s speech: “How to link up and stay connected through some disappointment (in a 1-6 preseason). Yet he can see the improvement in the team, seeing marked
improvement in effort levels and our communication defensively. He’s a power voice – a Hall of Fame voice, with its own strength.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on October 29, 2012 at 03:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

October 26, 2012

Charlotte Bobcats exercise 2 options, plus other preseason notes

    A couple of quick thought on the Bobcats, entering their last preseason exhibition tonight in Dallas:

                --The team announced late-afternoon that it picked up the third-season options in rookie-scale contracts for Bismack Biyombo ($3.2 million) and Kemba Walker ($2.7 million).

                This would only have been news had they not chosen to do so. The Bobcats used lottery picks to select Biyombo and Walker and both started by the end of last season. Walker has had back-to-back strong games this week. Biyombo has been in-and-out of the starting lineup this preseason, as coach Mike Dunlap figures out different big-man combination.

                I wouldn’t be surprised if Biyombo plays less this season than last, yet develops faster. Working with Brendan Haywood – someone who can teach him nuances about center play in the NBA – should greatly benefit Biyombo, who arrived in the NBA with minimal basketball background.

                --Going into tonight’s final exhibition, 10 Bobcats have started at least one game this preseason. Dunlap said before training camp he’d be mixing-and-matching the lineups to experiment with various rotations.

                He’s learned a lot about his players this way, but Dunlap acknowledged Thursday that some veterans haven’t been able to establish a rhythm yet.

                “That’s on me,’’ Dunlap said. “Some of them feel like pinch hitters, where they only get five pitches (per game) to hit the ball.’’

                --The only player who has started every game for which he was available is power forward Byron Mullens. That reflects on Mullens having the best preseason on this team. Walker has started five of six, and got into a groove in games against the Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks this week.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 26, 2012 at 06:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

October 24, 2012

Five thoughts on the Charlotte Bobcats

Five things worth noting about the Charlotte Bobcats fifth (yes, fifth) loss in the preseason:

  1.  The defense is ahead of the offense to the extreme. That’s intentional and not without good purpose. Defensive principles get you through bad times and offense come-and-goes with the whim of an open shot missed. But there have been abundant sub-40 percent quarters, and the idea that will magically change in the regular season (with legitimate opponent scouting reports) is preposterous.
  2.  I’ve decided rookie Jeff Taylor is a corn maze. Ever been in a corn maze? It’s fun and entertaining this time of year. You’re confused, yet you learn from each wrong turn.  Eventually, when you find your way out, you’re better for the challenge. Taylor has shot horribly this preseason after shooting so well in Las Vegas. Coach Mike Dunlap loves his defense. I’d love to find a sucker to bet Taylor won’t make it.
  3.  I thought paying Ramon Sessions’ $10 million total over the next two seasons was a ridiculous premium for a guy looking for a job. I was willing to be open-minded because point guards – even high-end backup point guards – are so hard to find. I still wonder if Sessions is worth all that. But the two-point guard set Dunlap ran in the second half got the Bobcats back in the game. Maybe this was desperation in the preseason, and it won’t work with games on the line. Sessions makes a lot of money, but he does make the Bobcats better.
  4. Many of you were gratuitously mean in your disdain for Cory Higgins. If his name was Cory Smith, there would never have been so much venom. But I’ve seen nothing this preseason that says he’s going to be better than we’ve seen. If a third point guard is their last contract, they should look to the waiver wire. Because they need a reliable 3rd point guard, and Cory isn’t that guy.
  5.  Why doesn’t Tyrus Thomas grasp the concept that he’s on borrowed time?  He had six points and four rebounds in 28 minutes. He’s owed, what, $23 million? He played well in Detroit, yet tonight’s performance says this cannot end well.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 24, 2012 at 12:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

October 23, 2012

A nice moment between Gerald Henderson and Mike Krzyzewski in Raleigh

I saw something pretty neat in the Charlotte Bobcats’ post-game locker room Tuesday: Gerald Henderson’s college coach, not just dropping by to be sociable, but offering some quick guidance.

                Henderson shot 4-of-15 against the Miami Heat and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski watched most of the game from the stands at Raleigh’s PNC Arena. Obviously that’s far below how Henderson wants to perform offensively.

                Krzyzewski stopped by after Henderson had showered. After some pleasantries, Krzyzewski and Henderson walked over to a grease board in the corner of the locker room with veteran shooting guard Ben Gordon. The three got their heads together and Krzyzewski discretely diagramed a few things he saw.

                I wasn’t looking to eavesdrop, but I was interviewing point guard Ramon Sessions nearby. I couldn’t help but notice how engaged Krzyzewski still was in helping Henderson work through a problem. Hendo doesn’t wear a Duke uniform anymore, but that doesn’t mean Krzyzewski doesn’t still feel like his coach. Krzyzewski wasn’t butting in; he was offering an extra set of eyes.

                I’m sure North Carolina’s Roy Williams or N.C. State’s Mark Gottfried would do the same for one of his former players. I’m not nominating Krzyzewski for sainthood. I’m saying it’s cool that Krzyzewski is still vested in Henderson’s success, and Henderson is still vested in Krzyzewski’s direction.

                When coaches say it’s all about relationships, I feel like I’m being spun. Watching this scene felt far more real, because it sure wasn’t for my benefit.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 23, 2012 at 11:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

October 22, 2012

Knee bruise limits Charlotte Bobcats forward Byron Mullens in practice

Charlotte Bobcats power forward Byron Mullens was held out of contact drills at practice Monday due to continued swelling in his right knee.

                Mullens sat out Saturday’s preseason loss to the Detroit Pistons with the same injury. It happened in practice Friday, in a collision with teammate Bismack Biyombo.

“Biz hurt me – he’s taking people out,’’ Mullens joked after practice.  “It was a knee-to-knee thing (causing) a little bone bruise. Got a little swelling going on.’’

The Bobcats don’t consider the injury serious, but it’s unclear whether Mullens will be cleared to play in Tuesday’s exhibition against the Miami Heat in Raleigh. Mullens has been the Bobcats’ second-leading scorer this preseason at 15.8 points and started the first four exhibitions of the preseason.

“I tried to go today and it was still a little tight, so I’m taking it a little easy right now,’’ Mullens said.  “There’s no rush to get back. Just trying to get back to 100 percent.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on October 22, 2012 at 01:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)

October 12, 2012

Charlotte Bobcats rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist shows he is a team guy

I’d heard that one of the things I’d like about Charlotte Bobcats rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was how much he cares about teammates and team agenda.

                Thursday night, in a mean-nothing exhibition at North Charleston Coliseum, I saw something pretty meaningful: Kidd-Gilchrist wasn’t playing because he wasn’t playing well. Rookies are entitled to have bad nights, particularly early on. Along the bench, with the Bobcats making up an 18-point deficit, MKG was going nuts rooting for teammates.

                You know those walk-ons at North Carolina who wave their towels so emphatically along the bench they appear rehearsed? MKG was that animated, but nothing about this seemed staged. He was thrilled for teammates and that doesn’t happen enough at the NBA level.

                Remember when Allen Iverson was searching for one last NBA gig? Some of you said he’d be so entertaining, it was worth the risk. I replied he’d be so disruptive on a young team, it would have been a disaster.

                It’s always been about Iverson. It would always be about Iverson. Maybe that’s tolerable when Iverson is in his prime. It’s exhausting and debilitating when he’s not.

                I saw a rookie last night vested in his team’s success regardless of how his night went. That confirms what I’d heard about last season’s Wildcats and MKG, in particular. That’s encouraging.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 12, 2012 at 07:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

October 09, 2012

Bobcats to win NBA title? Twitter: Don't bet on it

Posted by Observer Sports on October 9, 2012 at 03:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

October 08, 2012

Charlotte Bobcats taking care not to coach instincts out of rookie Kidd-Gilchrist

                The most interesting thing I heard post-game, after the Charlotte Bobcats beat the Washington Wizards Sunday, was this from coach Mike Dunlap on rookie forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist:

                “With Michael, our biggest job is to stay out of his way,’’ Dunlap said, adding you could hinder MKG’s instincts by “giving him a thousand plays.’’

                If you saw Kidd-Gilchrist Sunday, or most of his single college season at Kentucky, you knew what Dunlap meant. Kidd-Gilchrist, at his best, is a box score-filler. He won’t just be a scorer. He’ll be a productive rebounder, both offensively and defensively, and he’ll turn defense into offense with his steals.

                He made a steal in the open court, reaching around Wizards forward Trevor Ariza, punching the ball out of Ariza’s arms, and scooping it in for a transition dunk. That was more dynamic than any defensive play the Bobcats made last season. (Yes, I know – faint praise – but still.)

                Kidd-Gilchrist can dribble and pass with more proficiency than I saw him demonstrate in college. During Las Vegas summer league Dunlap told Kidd-Gilchrist to be a point-forward, as in don’t be reluctant to bring the ball up-court, or to initiate the offense off the dribble. He’s so quick, and a good enough driver, that opponents will be forced to foul him (illustrated by his six free throws in 27 minutes Sunday.)

                Really the only concern with Kidd-Gilchrist is his jump shot, and the coaches are already working to fix the hitch and the side spin. That’s going to take time to resolve.

                Preseason – particularly this one, with a new coaching staff and five new rotation players – is about experimentation. One of the intriguing things Dunlap explored Sunday was a small lineup, with Kemba Walker, Ben Gordon and Gerald Henderson all in the game. In that scenario, Kidd-Gilchrist would move from small forward to power forward.

                That’s a lot to ask from a 6-7 rookie, but Dunlap thinks it’s worth a try. Based on the versatility Kidd-Gilchrist has already shown, I think he’s up for it.

Posted by Observer Sports on October 8, 2012 at 10:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

October 05, 2012

Charlotte Bobcats rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist has a way with new teammates

    Obviously the Charlotte Bobcats were high on rookie Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as a basketball player. They drafted him second overall.

                The thing that got less attention was Kidd-Gilchrist’s likability as a person. Coach Mike Dunlap has seen teammates, like Kemba Walker and Gerald Henderson, go out of their way to help the rookie’s transition to the NBA. Dunlap thinks he knows why.

    “He’s smart with people. That’s where his intelligence is the highest,’’ Dunlap described Friday morning. “He’s very humble and that’s attractive to our players.  When they talk about him, they say they want to take care of him.

    “I found that was the case at Kentucky -- he had an average game to a poor game against St. John’s (where Dunlap coached last season), but his teammates always rallied around him.  He has whatever it is.

    “When he got drafted, people would say this or that, that he couldn’t shoot or whatever. But across the board, people said this guy will bring a good feel to your locker room and is a tough competitor. Those things aren’t so sexy, but they’re very attractive to teammates.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on October 5, 2012 at 05:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

October 03, 2012

Charlotte Bobcats name Gerald Henderson, Matt Carroll captains for 2012-13 season

Gerald Henderson and Matt Carroll have been named captains of the Charlotte Bobcats this season.

                They’re among the longest-tenured players on the roster (technically, reserve center Gana Diop has the longest tenure). Also Henderson and Carroll were among the most committed players to the off-season workout program new coach Mike Dunlap has emphasized.

                Henderson appreciated that Dunlap consulted with him about this, rather than just announce captains.

                “He asked me if I wanted to be captain. He wanted me to take it on,’’ said Henderson, last season’s leading scorer at 15.1 points per game. “I don’t like just being called a captain. I wanted to earn it.’’

                Carroll doesn’t play much – he could be the fourth shooting guard on the roster this season – but Henderson said he knows just why Carroll earned the distinction: “He’s the best teammate I’ve ever had. We play the same position (competing for playing time) and he’s always quick to help me or anyone else.’’

Posted by Observer Sports on October 3, 2012 at 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)